Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Alethea Hannemann, Taproot Foundation

Jun 18, 2015 1:50 PM ET

Originally posted in VolunteerMatch blog: Engaging Volunteers

VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Alethea Hannemann, Vice President of Product and National Programs, The Taproot Foundation

First of all, what is your chapter about?
Marketing, HR, finance, design: Nonprofits need experts in these functions as much as they need hands-on volunteers. Pro bono service, in which business professionals volunteer their skills on critical projects, is part of the next wave of volunteering. My chapter, Becoming Powered by Pro Bono, tells you how to make reliable, effective pro bono happen for your nonprofit.

Why is this topic important?
Pro bono is no longer just for lawyers! Professionals with all sorts of expertise can help a nonprofit in all sorts of critical ways. Imagine an HR strategist helping a nonprofit Executive Director work through retention issues to keep the right talent on board; a brand manager helping a board and executive team create new key messages to power their outreach and marketing; a financial analyst creating a program cost analysis that informs a new strategic plan.

Pro bono can bring you all this and more. When nonprofits bring in skills-based volunteers in addition to financial contributions and hands-on volunteering, they are truly tapping the resources in their community. It opens up a whole new area of support.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
The Taproot Foundation has worked with more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations on more than 4,000 pro bono engagements—that’s more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono service. We’ve helped make pro bono becomes business as usual for nonprofits, corporate CSR departments, and individual professionals across the country, and we’re constantly growing our programs. We just launched a new platform, Taproot+, to connect even more nonprofits and volunteers.

In my 8 years at Taproot, I’ve had the good fortune to build most of those programs. We know what works, and we are eager to share it so nonprofits can get more of the skills they need to achieve their missions.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
Well, I always struggle not to be TOO enthusiastic about pro bono. Pro bono isn’t right for every organization or every engagement. Being thoughtful in planning and following some core guidelines in picking and prepping for a project is really important. But it’s hard not to get excited about the potential for pro bono service to truly change the nonprofit sector for the better!

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Stay creative when you’re looking for resources, and expect you can find almost any skills you need. We do a really simple exercise in nonprofit trainings, asking everyone to search their LinkedIn networks for people with a particular skill, such as social media. So many nonprofit execs tell us “I don’t know ANYONE with that skill”—and then their networks turn up multiple good possibilities. Think big, and you’ll find it!

To read Alethea’s full chapter, Becoming Powered by Pro Bono, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.